Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thoughts on Games 3 and 4

I know this is a really original thought, but man, there's nothing like playoff hockey. The play is quicker, harder, and much more intense. The mood of the crowd is nervous- eager to cheer at the slightest good fortune or play. And on the flip side, the Sharks crowd gets pretty quiet when Nashville is running their power cycle in our zone.

Which happened pretty often.

Last night especially, the Preds could cycle deep in our zone almost at will in the first and second periods. Kariya would have it at the half-boards. Dump it low. Forsberg would be there, maybe go behind the net and kick it out to the point, which would shoot or go around back to Kariya. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. To the Sharks' credit, they had strong coverage in the middle, and didn't let a forward have a good swipe at an open puck (there weren't many, thanks to Nabby) or slip out to the weak side and look for a pass.

At least in game 4, I think it just came down to better goaltending, and more clutch performances. If you looked at every possession that didn't result in a goal and had to predict the score, you'd probably predict Nashville 4-1 or maybe worse. But Nabby came up huge, and the Sharks had good bounces and plays. Especially Pavelski's goal. He really created something out of nothing there.

So the question is- is it really the Sharks' size, as Rusonowsky and Baker are saying on the radio? Or is it Nashville's horrible road playoff record (0-7)? Since the Sharks did take one in Tennessee, I have to think it's a bit of both. I'm making a bold prediction here, but I think game 5 could be a decisive Sharks victory, not a nail-biter like the last two. Nashville will come out in full-court press mode, and will try to cycle and push. If the Sharks stay disciplined and counter-attack, they could put up goals quickly. And I think Nashville, after their all-or-nothing trades this year, could get desperate and take penalties. The San Jose PP has to start scoring soon, you don't want to wake the sleeping giant. It might just wake up on Friday.

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